JEFFERSON CITY -- For the second time, the Missouri Baptist Foundation is seeking to appeal a Cole County judge's ruling that could force the institution to return control to the Missouri Baptist Convention. The Foundation filed a notice of appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals on June 21.
This is the Foundation's second attempt to appeal a decision first issued by former Cole County Circuit Court Judge Paul Wilson. In December, Judge Wilson ruled that the Foundation did not have the right to change its charter without MBC approval.
Taking over the case in January, Judge Byron Kinder agreed to issue a stay on Judge Wilson's order so that the decision could be taken to the court of appeals. The Foundation appealed in February.
On March 29, the Court of Appeals dismissed the Foundation's request, returning the case to Cole County. The court ruled it did not have jurisdiction in the case because the Cole County order was not designated as a judgment. Judge Kinder reissued his order on May 13 as a final judgment.
In its June 21 notice to the higher court, the Foundation argues that Judge Kinder's order cannot be declared a final judgment because it fails to resolve all the legal issues.
The MBF declared it did not violate Missouri law or the convention's rights when it amended its charter in 2001 to form a self-electing trustee board. It also claimed the convention lacks standing or legal authority to bring legal action.
If allowed to stand by Missouri's higher courts, Judge Kinder's ruling would require the Foundation to return to its 1994 charter and articles of incorporation, and trustees not elected under the provisions of the 1994 documents would have to give up their seats.
On Oct. 9, 2001, the Foundation filed amendments to its 1994 charter under one Missouri statute. But the entity retained wording that continued to allow the MBC to elect the MBF's trustees and to approve any changes or amendments to its articles of incorporation.
The next day, the Foundation filed additional amendments but filed under a different statute, excluding the MBC provisions. The convention filed legal action in 2002 to regain the privileges outlined in the 1994 charter. The judge's order would void the Foundation's 2001 amendments.
The MBC's 2002 legal action included five formerly affiliated entities -- The Baptist Home, Windermere Baptist Conference Center, Missouri Baptist University, Word&Way and the MBF, all of which changed their charters to elect their own trustees.
Windermere won in the Cole County action in 2008, with the ruling upheld by the Court of Appeals in 2009. A second lawsuit the convention filed against Windermere in Camden County is ongoing.
The MBC voluntarily dropped its case against Word&Way on April 23 last year. Legal action in Cole County against the university and The Home is still pending.